In October 2016, Ethical Consumer viewed an article by Reuters dated 28 August 2015, titled, "Pentagon teams up with Apple, Boeing to develop wearable tech". The article stated, "U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter awarded $75 million on Friday to help a consortium of high-tech firms and researchers develop electronic systems packed with sensors flexible enough to be worn by soldiers or molded onto the skin of a plane." "The technology also could ultimately be used to integrate sensors directly onto the surfaces of ships or warplanes, allowing real-time monitoring of their structural integrity."
As such Apple lost a whole mark under Arms and Military Supply.


Pentagon teams up with Apple (28 August 2015)

In August 2018 Ethical Consumer sent Apple a questionnaire requesting details of its supply chain management. No response was received and the company's website was searched. Documents were found including the 2018 Supplier Responsibility Report, on the basis of which the company was rated as follows:

Supply chain policy (reasonable)
The company's Supplier Code of Conduct was dated 1 January 2018. The Code stated that it applied to "Apple suppliers and their subsidiaries, afliates, and subcontractors (each a “Supplier”) providing goods or services to Apple, or for use in or with Apple products."

It included adequate clauses on child labour, working hours, forced labour, freedom of association, and discrimination. It did not guarantee payment of a living wage. Apple was considered to have reasonable supply chain policy.

Stakeholder engagement (rudimentary)
Apple's Progress Report 2018 was viewed, which stated that the company was working with a multi-stakeholder initiative to improve its tin supply chain, however it did not appear that it was working with organisations on labour standards in its manufacturing. Apple mentionned anonymous complaint systems that encourage workers to report workplace violations and retaliations . Overall Apple received a rudimentary rating for stakeholder engagement.

Auditing and reporting (poor)
Apple stated that "in 2017, we conducted 756 assessments in 30 countries, covering 95 percent of our total spend". However, there was no disclosure of audit results at factory or supplier level - although there was discussion about overall audit findings. There was no clear schedule of audits, nor a statement it would audit its whole supply chain, nor mention of the costs of audits. The remediation strategy included a Corrective Action Plan. Because of the lack of detail given, Apple was considered to have a poor approach to auditing and reporting.

Difficult issues (reasonable)
A difficult issue within the electronics industry is child labour. Apple detailed how it required suppliers - if they were found to be using child labour - to commit to a remediation strategy of returning the child back to their home and supporting them. Only two cases were found in 2017.
Another difficult issue it was addressing was the use of third-party recruiters to secure contract workers. Apple required suppliers to reimburse fees back to the workers.
Apple was considered to be addressing some of the difficult issues within its supply chain therefore it was considered to have a reasonable approach to difficult issues.

Given that Apple was rated poor for auditing and reporting, rudimentary for stakeholder engagement and reasonable for supply chain policy and difficult issues, it received a middle rating for Supply Chain Management.


Supplier responsibility 2018 report (14 August 2018)

An article published on the Guardian website on 27 July 2015 raised concerns about the marketing tactics of childrens' games manufacturers.

It mentioned a case in 2014 when Apple announced it would refund $32.5m to parents who’d been billed for unauthorised in-app purchases made by their children in order to settle a dispute with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The article stated that in 2013 aggressive monetisation techniques such as requiring a real-life purchase during a game to continue play had caught the attention of the UK’s Office of Fair Trading (which had since become the Competition and Markets Authority). The CMA had launched an investigation into the way in-app purchases were marketed to children. It expressed concerns that some companies were attempting to exploit “children’s inexperience, vulnerability and credulity, including by aggressive commercial practices” such as “direct exhortations to children to buy advertised products” or persuading their parents to do so for them. It subsequently published a set of principles designed to remind developers of their responsibilities under consumer protection law.
The Children’s Rights and Business Principles, developed by UNICEF, the UN Global Compact and Save the Children, were also applicable to video games. Principle Five, for example, required companies to ensure that their “products and services are safe, and seek to support children’s rights through them”. Additionally, Principle Six called for marketing and advertising that respected and supported children’s rights.

The article noted that the fact that the CMA recently referred three online children’s games to the Advertising Standards Authority due to concerns that they may be pressuring children into buying extra features suggested that some developers of children’s apps were unaware of the principles and guidelines that applied to their products - or were choosing to ignore them.

Even when developers did follow available guidance, the default settings on mobile devices could still catch people out, it said. Parents and children weren’t always aware that every app or in-app purchase opens a 15 minute window when further purchases can be made, as with the case of Apple above.

As such Apple lost half a mark under Irresponsible Marketing


Responsiblities of the gaming industry in protecting children's rights (27 July 2015)

In August 2018, Ethical Consumer viewed the family tree for Apple Inc, on the corporate website, which stated that the company had subsidiaries in the following countries: India, China and Thailand. These countries were considered by Ethical Consumer to be oppressive regimes at the time of writing.
As such Apple lost half a mark under Human Rights.


Generic Hoovers ref 2018 (2018)

In August 2018 Ethical Consumer viewed Apple Inc's 2017 SEC Filing SD form which dealt with the issue of conflict minerals. Conflict minerals are minerals mined in conditions of armed conflict and human rights abuses, notably in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The minerals in question are Tantalum, Tin, Tungsten and Gold (3TG for short) and are key components of electronic devices, from mobile phones to televisions.

Ethical Consumer expected any company manufacturing electronics to have a policy on the sourcing of conflict minerals.

Apple stated: "Apple will continue to responsibly source conflict minerals throughout its supply chain and press for continuous improvements in industry-wide due diligence approaches and human rights–focused practices to make a positive impact on the lives of people living in the DRC and adjoining countries." Ethical Consumer took this to be a statement of intent to stay sourcing from the DRC.

The company was a member of several initiatives such as Conflict Free Sourcing Initiative. Apple supported the efforts of other Third Party Audit programs, such as those carried out by the London Bullion Market Association (the “LBMA”), the Responsible Jewellery Council and ITRI through its Tin Supply Chain Initiative (“iTSCi”), to be better aligned with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas (“OECD Guidance”)."

Apple's suppliers were required to to adopt a robust conflict minerals policy as stapilated in Apple's Supplier Code of Conduct. The company used OECD Guidance as a way to track, assess and respond to risks within its supply chain and required suppliers to source minerals from smelters which had been verified as compliant.
Apple's SD form had a full list of smelters and refiners (SORs). It had also achieved 100% of its smelters in its supply chain as being verified compliant.

Overall Apple received Ethical Consumer's best rating for its conflict minerals report.


SEC filing form SD 2017 (14 August 2018)

In October 2016 Amnesty International released the report “For your eyes only? Ranking 11 technology companies on encryption and human rights”, which ranked companies on whether they were meeting their human rights responsibilities by using encryption to protect users’ right to privacy online. I focused specifically on companies that provided instant messaging (IM) services.

Apple was one of three companies placed highest in the ranking, scoring 67 points out of 100 which meant they were “applying end to end encryption as default to all their instant messaging services.”

Amnesty contacted Apple to request information and the company answered Amnesty International's request for information on behalf of both Facebook and WhatsApp.

Apple was said to recognise online threats to freedom of expression and right to privacy as risks to its users through its policies and procedures but had no policy commitment to freedom of expression. The company deployed end to end encryption as default, used an inadequate notification to users within the apps about risks and encryption. It disclosed government request for using data and notified the affected user unless legally prohibited. The company had taken public stance against encryption backdoors. Apple shared some specification of encryption, but its protocol was not open source.

The report concluded that all 11 companies in the report had room for improvement. Therefore Apple received a half mark under the Human Rights category.



A company in Suqian, China, called Catcher, making iPhone and iPad parts was found to have a number of serious health and safety, environmental, and human rights violations, as was revealed in a new investigative report. The investigation was conducted in August 2014 and released on 4th September 2014 by the non-profit organizations China Labor Watch (CLW) and Green America.
CLW investigated the Catcher Sujian factory in April 2013 and found many of the same violations. At that time, CLW reported its findings to Apple privately, after which Apple committed to reforming some of the problems. The new report showed that in the 16 months, Apple had not made progress with this supplier to improve conditions for its workers. In spite of Apple’s supplier code of conduct and commitments to prevent these violations, more than a year later, they persist. These findings were in violation of Chinese law and Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct.
The factory, which employed 20,000, was not one of Apple’s 18 Final Assembly Plants in China, and therefore was not one of the facilities where Apple had recently committed to a policy to ban the use of benzene and n-hexane in manufacturing.
Violations found at Catcher Suqian included the following:
•Significant amounts of aluminum-magnesium alloy shreddings on the floor and dust particles in the air (this dust is both flammable and combustible). Lack of proper ventilation poses a health and fire safety risk
•Inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for handling toxic materials, such as metal cutting fluids. Skin is exposed directly to these toxins and there are no ventilator masks
•Locked safety exits. There was no means of rapid egress if there is a fire or explosion.
•Workers had not participated in fire drills in the past year
•A lack of safety training for workers
• Dumping of industrial fluids and waste into groundwater and nearby rivers
•Many student workers (16-18 years old) are employed in the same positions as adults, 10+ hour days
•Excessive hours for all workers, including student interns
•Forced overtime. Workers were not allowed to turn down requests they work overtime. An estimated 6 hours of unpaid overtime per worker per month (Roughly $290,000 in owed wages for all employees)
•Hiring discrimination based on age and presence of tattoos
•A grievance process that retaliates against workers for raising valid workplace issues
Green America and CLW called on Apple to do what was necessary to ensure that workers making Apple products were treated according to law and Apple’s own social responsibility commitments.
As a result, Apple lost half a mark under Pollution and Toxics, and a whole mark under Workers Rights.


iPhone and iPad Supplier Exploits and Endangers Safety of 20,000 Workers (4 September 2014)

In October 2015 an investigation by China Labour watch revealed that despiet promises to address issues at the Shanghai-based Pegatron Technology factory conditions there for workers remained poor.

The report entitled “Something’s Not Right Here” calls on Apple CEO Tim Cook to acknowledge the problems and work harder to put them right.

The report outlines how workers at Pegatron, which produces Apple’s iconic iPhone:
often work 12-hour shifts,
often work six days a week,
are forced to do overtime work and unpaid labor,
have short breaks for meals,
facing hiring fees and unreasonable fines, and
receiving inadequate training in safety and prevention measures

This researchers say is all covered up by Pegatron management through fraudulent documentation. They add that "Pegatron also contravenes Chinese law in its excessive use of precarious temp labor and its refusal to pay legally mandated benefits to its workers."

Problems that they say are all exacerbated by the lack of any labour union.

CLW say that this "grim reality" stands in contrast to Apple’s ethical commitments (the company receives an Ethical Consumer middle rating for its supply chain management).

CLW compared findings from its new investigation with those of a 2013 investigation of Pegatron. Among 21 categories of legal and ethical violations that were identified they found that, 11 went unchanged, five problems deteriorated further, and four showed partial but incomplete improvement.

One category of violation, hiring discrimination, appeared to have improved. But this may have been influenced by the fact that CLW’s investigator was hired directly by the company rather than as a temp worker, where more discriminatory hiring practices are common.


Chinese Factory Producing Apple’s iPhone 6s Exposed Again for Ongoing Labor Abuses (30 October 2015)

In March 2014, The Economic Policy Institute, a US-based nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank, analysed Apple’s 2014 supplier responsibility report which was released in February 2014 and which reports on conditions in its supply chain during 2013.

Their focus was on the labor rights aspects of the report, and not the environmental aspects. They found working conditions that still routinely and systematically fail to meet Apple’s own standards.

“While Apple has made progress in some areas, the claims made by Apple in its report are often misleadingly rosy." says lead researcher Scott Nova.
He added that “Apple also appears to be walking away from the fundamental reforms promised as part of the Fair Labour Association process. It is discouraging, if not surprising, that promises made under the pressure of intense media scrutiny were quietly jettisoned when that scrutiny abated. Sadly, this means labour rights abuses in Apple’s supply chain are ongoing and commonplace.”

The report outlines several major issues with Apples reporting. These include:
The effects of Apple’s reforms are often dubious and are overstated by the company. For example, Apple places great emphasis on its data indicating that fewer workers in its supply chain are working more than 60 hours per week, yet ignores altogether the fact that workweeks at its Chinese factories still consistently break Chinese law (which Apple has repeatedly pledged to uphold). The average work week Apple reports still exceeds, by a substantial margin, the 49-hour limit imposed by Chinese law. In another example, Apple reports 99 percent compliance by its suppliers when it comes to “freedom of association” when such freedom is a legal and practical impossibility in China.
Apple’s own data show that labour rights violations remain common and that there has been no overall progress when it comes to worker health and safety. Apple’s own audits show that 27 percent of supplier practices are not in compliance with juvenile worker protections; 28 percent are not in compliance with occupational injury protections; and 30 percent are not in compliance with ergonomic standards. In the health and safety area, overall non-compliance is 23 percent, which is essentially the same level as in 2009, when it was 24 percent.
Apple has apparently walked away from key reforms promised as part of the FLA process. In the wake of media criticism of the treatment of workers in its supply chain, especially at its largest supplier, Foxconn, Apple publicly recommitted itself more than two years ago to advancing fundamental reforms, this time through its new membership in the FLA. Since then, however, the company (in its latest report and previously) and the FLA have largely gone silent regarding certain crucial commitments they made, including promises to boost wages to offset any reductions in hours worked and to pay back wages to workers who had engaged in uncompensated overtime.
Apple’s self-regulatory approach raises independence and accuracy concerns; independent reports continue to paint a far more troubling picture of Apple’s supply chain. Apple’s audits are carried out by Apple itself, and the information contained in them is reported selectively, by Apple. Apple’s annual supplier responsibility reports—which draw on these audit reports to broadly characterize conditions in the supply chain—should thus be treated with ample caution, especially given the failed history of industry-controlled factory auditing programs as well as findings from independent investigators that are far worse than those portrayed by Apple. For instance, a 2013 investigation by China Labor Watch of Apple’s second largest supplier found 17 basic areas where working conditions failed to meet Apple’s code of conduct.
There has been progress in some areas. As examples, working hours, though still well in excess of legal limits, have apparently been reduced significantly. Apple now discloses the names and locations of its supplier factories—information no other major electronics brand provides—and Apple released, in this year’s supplier responsibility report, unusually detailed “Supplier Responsibility Standards,” which lay out Apple’s official expectations concerning suppliers’ labor practices. While compliance is very much in question, access to the detailed requirements is of use to the public and to workers’ rights advocates.


Assessing the Reforms Portrayed by Apple’s Supplier Responsibility Report (25 March 2014)